Gondar, Abyssinia’s capital for 250 years was founded by Emperor Fasilides in 1635 after a century of continuous warfare against Muslim invaders. It ushered in a golden era for the Abyssinian empire during which the arts, architecture and even animal rights thrived.
Gondar’s Royal Enclosure is a city within the city, home to six castles built by Gonderian emperors in the 17th century as well as a Great Hall, a concert hall, Royal Stables, Royal Archives. Drawing on Portuguese, Byzantine and Mughal influences, the Royal Enclosure is a wondrous and eclectic compound which, in its heyday, was a place of splendour and learning.
In 1888, the Mahdi of Sudan razed Gondar to the ground while Emperor Yohannis I was fighting the Italians on the Somaliland border. By the time Yohannis returned to Gondar and defeated the Mahdists, there was little of the city left and a new capital was built: Addis Ababa.
Today the remnants of Gondar’s past glory stand like huge silent ghosts in the Royal Enclosure.